As Americans, we should embrace the increasing diversity of our country.
The Census Bureau recently reported that minority births made up a majority of births in the United States in the year that ended July 2011. The report noted that 50.5 percent of the births were Asian, Latino, black or mixed race. This percentage has been on the rise for years as the nation's white population ages and the minority population gets younger and younger. Right now there are more than 300 million people in United States, and 114 million of us are minority or persons of color.
Of the individual states, Hawaii, California, New Mexico and Texas already have majority-minority populations. The District of Columbia is majority-minority as well.
The majority-minority birth numbers should come as no surprise.
Demographers have been predicting for years now that by 2040, people of color would comprise a majority in the United States. Some studies place it a little later at 2050, but still, the "browning of America," as many call it, is coming. Amid all of this change, there is unfounded fear and outright hatred.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups are on the rise. The number, in total, is currently more than 1,000, and many of them are organized around resistance to these demographic changes.
In addition, anti-immigration laws have been passed in many states across the nation. Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi and South Carolina have all passed laws that are anti-immigrant in nature.
This is no way to respond to the changing face of America. Except descendants of Native Americans and slaves, everyone's relatives came here as immigrants. We should resist the temptation to pass laws that will restrict new Americans as the country once did in the early 20th century when Jews, Poles, Greeks and Italians arrived in large numbers.
Instead, we should pass comprehensive immigration reform to offer a path to citizenship to all those who have been leading productive lives here for many years. We should also address the problem of economic equality along racial lines. Failure to address this issue as the nation grows more diverse could prove to be catastrophic. Not only will it breed division and contempt, but a majority will also be unable to live a constructive existence.
In 2010, median black and Latino families earned a paltry 57 cents for each dollar earned by median white families, according to a study by United for a Fair Economy. White families, on average, also possess far more wealth than black and Latino families.
We can't have a smoothly functioning society with such economic disparities. We need to equalize educational opportunities and open the doors for all.
The United States is what the Rev. Jesse Jackson once described: "a quilt of many patches, many pieces, many colors, many sizes, all woven and held together by a common thread."
We should strengthen that thread and admire the power of our many colors woven together.
Brian Gilmore is a writer for Progressive Media Project, a source of liberal commentary on domestic and international issues; it is affiliated with The Progressive magazine. Readers may write to the author at: Progressive Media Project, 409 East Main Street, Madison, Wis. 53703; email: email@example.com; Web site: www.progressive.org. For information on PMP's funding, please visit http://www.progressive.org/pmpabout.html#anchorsupport.